If not me, who? If not now, when?

UN Women 2014 | Emma Watson HeForShe Speech at the United Nations


What women?

what women?

There has been a lot written on the absence of women in the newly elected coalition government cabinet over the last week. I thought these 3 pieces were the most interesting. I’ve also included a link to an interesting audio discussion reflecting on the political situation faced by women leaders here in Australia and Germany.

A few good women to correct gender skew – By Greg Sheridan for The Australian

On the day of swearing in the newly elected coalition government, Greg wrote an interesting piece criticising Tony Abbott for the lack of women in cabinet. He argues that while Tony Abbott was blindsided by the loss of frontbencher Sophie Mirabella who lost her seat in Indi, he should have insisted on Bronwyn Bishop being elevated to cabinet rather than announcing her as the next speaker of the house. Still, that would have only brought the grand total of women on the front bench to 2. Susan Boyce, former Liberal backbencher, former Liberal senator Judith Troeth and conservative icon, Ita Buttrose have also publicly criticised Tony Abbott for his political oversight. Tony Abbott argued that he appointed people based on their merit but as Greg makes the point, the government has an obligation to look like it represents the electorate and clearly Tony Abbott has overlooked his duty to do so.

A cross-gender problem in the cabinet – By Niki Savva for The Australian

Niki Savva was similarly critical. Niki writes the fact there was not one other woman Abbott deemed worthy of inclusion in the cabinet, even though he acknowledged they were knocking on the door, was appalling. Sorry ladies – lights on, no one home. Niki argues Tony Abbott has to take responsibility for his own actions as he has had four years to ensure more women were ready to move into cabinet. While some new appointments in the ministry are oddly disturbing, such as Kevin Andrews appointment as the new Social Services Minister despite being hopeless at selling reform in the Howard government, there are some promotions, Michaelia Cash and Sussan Ley, who deserved their new positions. On Tony Abbott’s comments regarding merit, Niki makes the point that if John Howard had adopted his view, stability was best served by an orderly succession, then Abbott would have festered on the backbench.

For women, party merit is tanking – By Julia Baird for the Sydney Morning Herald

Julia Baird writes that while some thought Tony Abbott’s backing of Bronwyn Bishop’s new role, as the house speaker, was a coup for women, others saw it as a symbol of ambitious liberal women being thwarted. Julia states Bronwyn never wanted to be removed from her cabinet position. In fact her ambition has always been power and in a 1994 Newspoll showed she was clearly more popular than John Howard and John Hewson. It wasn’t always this way. According to former Liberal party president, Chris McDiven, the Liberal party did mentor, train and support women in pre-selections. In 1996, a record number of Liberal women were elected and it was Chris that mentored every one of them.

In 2010, Bronwyn Bishop said men have a vested interest in keeping women out of cabinet. As Julia writes, Bishop leans in so hard she makes the Tower of Pisa look vertical. Julia makes the point that it is offensive to half the population to have only one woman in cabinet. As the Liberal party shifts further to the right, there is growing internal disregard for Liberal members who speak out against the party’s lack of interest in the promotion of women. But there are plenty of women who are pursuing a political career despite this and are challenging the status quo. Former Liberal senator Judith Troeth argues leadership on the promotion of women into cabinet must come from the top.

Listen: German studies expert Dr Andrew Beattie reflects on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s campaign for a third term in office and the contrasting political situation faced by women leaders in Australia.

Espresso yourself


My morning view

About a year ago, I did the unthinkable. I bought a home coffee machine of my own free will. I’d been in the vicinity of one before when it was forced upon me by an overenthusiastic aunt at Christmas who thought it might be fun for me to make everyone “cuppacinos” when the family came to visit. As ‘thoughtful’ as this gesture was, it’s like giving an office assistant a photocopier, a marine biologist a fish tank, or an industrial worker a Tonka truck. It’s a toy! It was small with plastic bits, in all the wrong places (note to manufacturers: steel should be on the inside). The machine would melt in an instant if it reached a third of standard extraction temperature. It was a user-unfriendly, miniature steam squealing machine that made mediocre coffee. I often fantasized about dumping it in a back alley in Newtown and then speeding off; laughing maniacally (this may or may not have happened).

Last year, I was faced with a dilemma. Unexpectedly, my local closed for an extended period over Christmas. I found myself wandering around aimlessly, increasingly decaffeinated, becoming weak and desperate. It was time to reconsider my self-imposed sanction. I sheepishly went online, looked at all the coffee machines and then looked at my budget and then looked at all of them again. I wanted a Giotto (“The professional’s choice at home”). I bought a Sunbeam Piccolo. I figured after years of making coffee on machines that ranged from the sublime to those held together by duct tape, I could pretty much drive anything. And let’s also acknowledge the ridiculousness of owning a coffee machine that’s worth as much as a small second hand car.

I wasn’t expecting much but at least this time around I was open-minded (some might say deprived) and more than pleasantly surprised when it delivered me a close to commercial grade crema. In that moment the unthinkable turned into the drinkable. My toy’s status went from temporary to permanent. Obviously the machine isn’t perfect (it’s still plastic with bits of steel stuck on the outside) but I don’t care because for a humble $99 I get to have sweet aromatic espresso every single day.

Just don’t tell my local.

Human rites

Picture credit: UN Vienna

Religious freedom is covered under Article 18 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This article ensures that the atrocities carried out during World War II are never to be repeated. As part of that surety, governments are strongly encouraged to condemn religious persecution and to protect religious freedom.

That is so long as the practice does not contravene any laws or impinge on the rights of others.

In June a German district court found that non-medical circumcision impinges on the rights of a child. The case in question involved a four-year-old Muslim boy who underwent the procedure and suffered severe complications necessitating hospitalisation. Neither the parents or the doctor were found to be negligent but the act of circumcision itself was found to be unconstitutional. The court stated that while they found religious freedom “would not be unduly impaired” – that is the child can decide to be circumcised when he is older – circumcision for non-medical reasons violated the constitutional protection of a person’s “fundamental right to bodily integrity”.

In the eyes of the law, bodily integrity trumps religious freedom.

The ruling caused outrage amongst groups of Jewish and Muslim people, who demanded immediate legalisation of religious circumcision. Chancellor Angela Merkel responded that she didn’t want “Germany to be seen as a laughing stock”, as the only country in the world that did not allow Jews to practice this ritual. Germany has strongly supported the position of Jewish people following the horrors of the Second World War. The legislation is currently going through parliament.

In the eyes of the Bundestag, religious freedom trumps bodily integrity.

The practice of religious freedom and the right of bodily integrity are clearly at odds with each other. According to the judge, the integrity of religious freedom is not at risk here; however the religious practice clearly is and this raises some really interesting questions. Does removing one religious practice violate the integrity of the religion? Should a child be denied the right to a ritual that assists to identify them with their family and religious community?

The practice was found to have contravened with the law as it did impinge on the right of others.

Yet, as it seems, the past trumps the present.